The Wrong Wife(5)

By: Eileen Wilks

"You've got to be kidding," Gideon said. He stood by the closed drapes in their room, wearing a scowl along with yesterday's clothes.

Gideon hated to be rumpled and dirty. He hated the sour taste in his mouth, too, the faint stink of liquor clinging to his shirt and the pounding of his head. Cassie had hidden in the shower a long time, yet room service still hadn't managed to appear with the coffee, aspirin, breakfast and clean clothes Gideon craved. And he hadn't managed to come up with more than fragments of the night before. One of those fragments included a bed, darkness, Cassie … and a vivid, tactile memory of overwhelming lust. That fragment stood alone, banked on either side by foggy nothing. He couldn't remember.

His memory, or lack of it, didn't excuse him. But as far as he could see, his new bride lacked even the feeble excuse of drunkenness for what she had done to him. Cassie had known he was drunk. She'd known what kind of woman he needed—hadn't he told her and Ryan both, while drinking toasts to the wedding that didn't happen? Yet she'd married him anyway.

He scowled at her.

Cassie marched to the window where he stood and seized the drapery pull. "I hope breakfast gets here soon, Gideon. Your blood sugar must be low. It's interfering with your reason. Of course we'll get the marriage annulled." She yanked on the cord, flooding the room with hideously bright light that the white sheers did nothing to tame. "There, that's better. Mornings in the desert are beautiful, aren't they?"

Gideon winced at the assault on his abused eyeballs. The sunshine lit a fire in Cassie's hair, a fire that should have clashed with the tomato-red silk of the blouse she wore tucked into her jeans but didn't. Vivid colors suited Cassie as pastels never would.

Melissa, Gideon thought, his scowl deepening, would never wear a shirt that bright. Melissa preferred soft blues and peaches that didn't overwhelm her delicate blond coloring. She wouldn't have opened those drapes without asking, either. He was sure of it. "There's nothing wrong with my reason. Yours, however—" Patience, he reminded himself, was necessary to maintaining control. "Cassie, you must know an annulment isn't possible after the marriage has been consummated."

"So?" She propped her hands on her hips in a familiar, challenging pose.

"Obviously, after last night—"

"I thought you didn't remember last night."

The shock of fear over his loss—of memory, of control—was less than it had been. Less, but still powerful. "I don't," he said, his voice flat with the effort of detachment. "But when I wake up naked, in bed with a woman who is also naked, I don't need an instant replay to tell me what happened the night before."

"Well," she said, "I hate to tell you this, but you had an awful lot to drink yesterday, Gideon. You're not used to that. You mustn't be upset that your, ah, manly functions were impaired."

"My what?"

"You know what I mean."

"Are you saying that I didn't—that I passed out?"

"Not exactly. You tried. It isn't as if you didn't try. You just couldn't." She stepped closer and patted his arm. The gold band on her finger winked at him mockingly in the sunshine. "It's okay, though. Really."

He stepped back and glared.

She smiled sweetly at him. "Don't worry. I'm sure there's no permanent problem. And an annulment is much tidier than a divorce, don't you think?"

The knock at the door pleased Gideon. Thinking of coffee and a clean shirt, tabling consideration of Cassie's bombshell, he strode to the door and opened it without hesitating.

The man on the other side of the door was very like Gideon, and very different. The expressions the two men faced each other with were identically grim, but the newcomer's scowling mouth was framed by a thick mustache. He was every bit as tall as Gideon, and even heavier through the chest and shoulders. Where Gideon's hair was the limitless black of midnight, this man's hair flamed with sunrise.

Just like Cassie's.

"I want to talk to my sister," the other man growled. "Now."

Gideon sighed. Of course Ryan showed up before Gideon's coffee and clean shirt did, and of course he was breathing fire. On a morning like this, what else could he expect? Gideon stepped back, silently holding the door open for the one man he considered a friend—or had. Until this morning.

Ryan charged into the room. "Cassie," he said as he reached for her. "Cassie—"

She held an arm out stiffly, as if that slender limb could really hold off her oversize brother, and announced, "I am going to kill you this time."

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